I love to learn from others, and I thought you might too. I have asked columnists here at Meridian Magazine  to share with us their experiences during the stay-at-home orders. I will address some of the things they have discussed in future articles so keep reading here and at the Totally Ready Facebook page. Hopefully you are all taking note of the things you need to think about moving forward with your preparations.

You may notice the emphasis on preparedness other than food storage as the Proctors experienced an earthquake in addition to the pandemic, proving more than one emergency can, and often will, happen at the same moment.

Maurine Proctor:

I sat in my chair putting on shoes when the 5.7 magnitude earthquake that hit Utah began its ominous shake the morning of March 18 and I thought, just like everybody else did that morning, “A pandemic and now this?” My mind raced immediately to thoughts of our 72-hour kits. Years ago, we had set money aside and went all out to get great 72-hour kits for us and our 11 children, who were then living home, but these kits have been untouched for years. I can’t imagine how stale any semblance of food is in these backpacks. Some were torn apart by kids to take the backpack to camp. Others were strewn in various shelves in the garage. None of them were together. We realized it was time to refresh and renew what we have and add new food. We need to check batteries and equipment to make sure it is still in working order.

The combo earthquake-pandemic also made us look at everything again. We’ve had much freeze-dried food because of the obvious benefit of its 20 to 30 year shelf life, but we have largely given up on canned goods because their shelf life is so short. I realized that I needed to replenish canned goods that we would really use up and not completely knock them off the list of our food storage. It was just too convenient to have them ready to go and I didn’t want to leave them out of our planning.

We had already purchased many of the things one would need in times of scarcity. We had facemasks and disinfectant and a sun oven and porta-potty, but we also realized that we have not adequately addressed our fuel needs, which has now become more of a priority.

As for skills, I am missing—they are many. I want to collect and practice with recipes for using freeze-dried food. After years of throwing out certain stored foods that became too old, we are convinced that freeze-dried foods are the best solution for us, but I need to learn how to make these meals which I understand can be delicious. Making bread has also long ago gone out the door for me because I work more than full time, but it may be time to start kneading again. I can see that when a crisis comes, it is too late to begin then.

Just before things began to close down, we also loaded up on many items from the Church’s local cannery—things like oatmeal, spaghetti and flour.

Our family has not really been craving anything during the pandemic except more social interaction. However, we have come to think that having treats or the makings for treats that store well is essential to food storage. You can’t overestimate the importance of how you feel when you are in the midst of a crisis—and little things, like good food, can really boost your spirits. It’s chagrinning to acknowledge that a cookie can make your day, but, hey, deprivation has its limits.

We’ve been happy and whole while we have been staying at home and have found that we can be really resourceful to create things to look forward to and moments for connection.

Scot Proctor:

I think the thing I’m most concerned about is communications with the family if the cell-phone network went down.  We have some walkie talkies that are good to 20 miles–but they are line of sight only–and we have both of the radios.  I’ve thought about getting a ham radio and getting a license, but the whole idea of not being able to talk to the family in a crisis just doesn’t sit well in my soul–especially after being socially-distanced from them through this trial run small pandemic.

Just as Maurine said, when the earthquake hit, I immediately thought our 72-hour kits were out of date.  I know where they all are but we’d be hard-pressed to use them because we packed them many, many, many years ago.  I’d love to know what the current thinking is about 72-hour kits.

We’ve been putting aside food storage every month for many years and we are in good shape as far as that goes.  

Fuel is definitely an issue.  We have a generator but with no fuel to run it.  How do we store gasoline?  It’s a duel fuel machine so I guess I could store propane tanks or have a larger propane tank on site.

Becky Douglas:

I felt I was pretty prepared. I have been a food storage enthusiast for many years.  I had, for example, 90 rolls of toilet paper—and this is before any of this started! (A fact that my husband teased me about mercilessly before the pandemic hit.  Now he thinks I was brilliant to store something as silly as TP!)

I’m a little chagrinned that I didn’t have any masks stored, because for weeks they were impossible to get. That should have been a no-brainer—especially since I saw Contagion years ago!

However, as I got ready to try to sew masks, I realized I was almost out of white thread.  I also realized I only had one sewing machine needle, since I had picked up my sewing machine at a garage sale. If my one needle broke, I would be sewing -disabled!  I didn’t have many bobbins.  So, I quickly tried to order these items.  It’s taken more than 7 weeks for these items to arrive!

I had planted a little garden right as the virus was starting to get coverage. I had to order seeds (my stored seeds were five years old!), and more fertilizer. Again, almost everything was sold out.

This was a good exercise to help me to re-evaluate what I have gathered—or not!  

I had a cute experience, as the government started talking about social distancing. I went to Costco to pick up some extra cleaning and sterilization products. Everyone had carts full of TP! As I stood in line waiting to check out the lady in front of me, looked at my cart and noticed I didn’t have any toilet paper. “Oh, I guess you’re not doing panic shopping like the rest of us,” she said.  “No, I just thought I’d pick up a few extras like rubber gloves, Clorox wipes and other cleaning supplies.” I responded.  She looked at my cart.  She said, “That is brilliant! I should go get the same items!” So, I watched her cart and loaded her items on the check-out counter while she scurried around the store trying to get the same things I had picked up.  Fortunately, she got back before I had to pay for her groceries!

I am grateful that after years of thinking about emergencies, I already had some training as to what I might need to supplement in my food storage items.  Thank heavens for our Latter-day Prophets who have been nudging us for years to prepare for hard times ahead!

Christopher Kirkland:

What did you notice was missing when you had to learn to live on the food and supplies you had stored in your home? Paper towels, certain canned fruit & vegetables, yeast, butter, beef/chicken stock, and peanut butter.

What have you been craving?  Ice cream and eggs

What skills do you wish you had right now? Electrician/wiring, understanding of small circuit schematics and soldering.

How are you rethinking food storage as you move forward? Mainly just more of the same, but things we actually use, and planning to rotate more. We didn’t touch the beans, etc. The problem is we like to eat fresh, so how do you rotate that?

Jennie Hansen:

We’ve been fine on most food items except milk, eggs, and fresh fruit and veggies. We have powdered milk and eggs, but used the grocery stores “pickup” service to obtain these items. We ran out of Clorox wipes and are almost out of Lysol spray now. Fortunately, we were able to get more wipes, though only one container. We have liquid bleach, but I think when this is over and we replenish our supply I’ll store more than I did previously. We found a few masks my husband used for painting and a daughter gave us a couple of masks, but I’ll include a few in our future reserve even though I hate wearing a mask. Having asthma, being diabetic, and partially dependent on lip reading, I hate them. They make me claustrophobic, have difficulty breathing, and I don’t always understand what others are saying.

Oddly, the items I had the most difficulty with were neither food nor cleaning supplies. We have nine birthdays and three wedding anniversaries in our family during the period we’ve been going through “staying home.” There was also Easter, coming up are Mothers’ Day and graduation.  I’m going to add birthday and special occasion cards to my reserve.

Overall, I think our food storage and household supplies were well planned. It’s something my parents took seriously and something we learned the hard way a long time ago when my husband was laid off from his job early in our marriage. Over the years, I’ve attended and taught a number of preparation classes. I think I was prompted on some aspects of our storage well ahead of time. Several months before I’d even heard of Covid-19 I was preparing my regular shopping list when I noticed I only had two large packs of toilet paper. I felt I should add TP to my list, then when I got to the store, I had a strong feeling I should add it every time I shopped. By the time everyone else was fighting over toilet paper I had one end of my storage room piled high with it.

The major plan we have for future food storage is to replenish all we used as soon as a big shopping trip is safe. We’ve already set aside the funds for it. I just wish it was possible to put aside insulin and diabetes supplies!

Garth Norman:

What did you notice was missing when you had to learn to live on the food and supplies you had stored in your home? We were fine.

What have you been craving? Craving Japanese food.

Skills you want to brush up or learn? We’ve been using pre-learned FaceTime and Zoom for work and meetings

Food storage what will you do now?  We’ll get more foods we REALLY like. 

Rosemarie Briggs:

What was missing?  Our on-hand supply of perishables (milk, eggs, fresh fruit and vegetables) was about two weeks.

Craving? Nothing

Skills you need to learn? Not really

Future plans: COVID-19 reinforced the wise things we already have in place and will definitely continue doing. We are grateful to have a large supply of toilet paper and other paper goods, long-term and short-term non-perishable food and frozen food. Related to food storage is energy independence. We have solar panels on our roof and two generators. We need to rethink having a back-up supply of gasoline for our cars if gas stations were not open.

Geoff Steurer:

We were missing a few over the counter medications, gloves, and masks. We have a lot of long-term food storage that is freeze dried and canned, but we decided to stock up on extra comfort foods and fresh foods. We could have made the long-term food work, but recognized we didn’t have the variety that we’re used to, so that was good feedback for us. 

The biggest loss was fresh produce.  

With the impending meat shortage, I wish we had chickens and I wish I knew how to slaughter/clean/prepare chicken.  

We will build in more variety and add some fun foods and comfort foods (to food storage). We might even get a second freezer to give us more options.  

Mary Bell:

Goodness! I wished I had taken an Education Week teacher I had years ago more seriously then. I am following her advice more closely now! Here’s what she said: 

1. Write down two weeks of menus. Think of things that you already like to make. 

2. Make a list of grocery store items you need to make those meals. 

3. Choose the items from this grocery list that store well (oatmeal, pasta, canned goods, etc.) and buy a year’s supply of all of them. 

4. Add whatever fresh ingredients you need for each meal as they happen, and rotate through the meals throughout the year.

Now you have most of what you really need for meals you will actually eat! This is so smart, given what is happening, of course, but also in terms of general efficiency. This method saves so much time. I regret not doing this sooner! We have lots of wheat etc. in aluminum cans. I have never craved these:).

Like maybe everyone, I wish we had stored even more toilet paper. But also, I wish I had stored more of other paper goods. 

Going forward, I would like to use my wheat grinder more often to make flour. Flour was one thing we missed. When we found some in the store one day it felt like a “”Little House on the Prairie” sort of Christmas scenario, where Pa goes to market and purchases a little flour for our Christmas (along with maybe some licorice sticks and oranges for our stockings).

Daris Howard:

I can’t really think of much I feel I needed.  The main things we might get from a store in the way of food are milk and eggs.  We had our own chickens and got milk at a local dairy, so we went weeks without going to a store. The main things I have needed were not food items or toilet paper or anything like that. The needed items were more things like parts to fix my garden sprinkler or something which I would get at a hardware store. 

One thing we missed when not going to the store was fresh fruit.  We were able to eat our canned fruit, but we try to eat fresh fruit when it is in season.  We had soaps in storage, but no hand sanitizer.  We also didn’t have any masks, other than ones for painting or working in dust.  Those were helpful, but not as good as the bio ones.  My wife, Donna, made me a mask.

On the learning end, there are some interesting things there.  As the university went to all online teaching, many teachers and students struggled with the adjustment.  However, I just finished a doctoral degree in online learning with an emphasis in technology.  Though I would much rather be in the classroom, I felt comfortable moving my classes online.

Probably the main area I struggled in was simply the feeling of confinement.  This might be more in the way of mental preparation.  When the confinement orders first came, I still had two feet of snow in my yard and on my garden.  But as time went on and the snow disappeared, I was able to get out and work on my yards and in my garden.  That helped a lot.  My garden is cleaner and better taken care of than it has probably ever been just because I have fewer options to relieve stress.

Carolyn Allen:

We wished we’d had some masks ready, but thankfully found some easy ways to make some!

For our meals, my husband and I speak from the perspective of empty-nesters who have really embraced a whole-food plant based (vegetarian)  lifestyle. Many of the recipes we enjoy most, even without a pandemic, are basically food storage recipes with beans, rice, legumes, etc. that don’t  use meat, cheese, eggs, dairy products etc.  We didn’t start eating like this (about 5 years ago) with any thoughts  of  “being prepared,”  “food storage” or  looming international emergencies, but it’s a fun surprise that the lifestyle we enjoy most really does lend itself to living on what’s on your shelves for a long time with or without an emergency. When the Lord talks about “Hidden blessings” we didn’t realize this would be one of them!

We are well-stocked with wheat, rice, dried beans etc.  from the days of raising a family …We probably have a year supply of those!
But the sugar is gone. We should probably have some on hand!  Truthfully, we hardly ever bake at this point and have gotten along fine without that this month.  However I do know that if we still had children and teenagers at home, we would have needed to be creative to make sure there were fun foods and treats to keep everyone happy.

That’s important and we didn’t have that consideration to deal with.

We are grateful  (and continue to be) that our grocery stores have continued to have a plentiful supply of our favorite fresh fruits and vegetables! Without that, our supply of canned and frozen vegetables and fruits would have taken a real hit. and our meals would not have been nearly as enjoyable, but we would have gotten along fine — but not indefinitely.  

We do enjoy eating out at our favorite healthy-type restaurants once or twice a week. Without them, we’ve saved some money and gotten creative creating those favorite meals.  It’s fun and interesting to see the money we’ve saved from that!

What were we lacking? Definitely would have been great to have some masks, although it wasn’t hard to figure out how to make some.

We are incredibly grateful during this pandemic that we have never been without electricity or internet service!

However excellent the pandemic has been to assess where we really are food storage wise, I think a few days without electricity reveals advanced measures with more of what we need to be self-reliant, cope and be comfortable. 

I also think it’s amazing and humbling as an American to consider that much of the world lives with limited food, electricity, internet and running water. What an excellent opportunity an emergency is to humble ourselves and see our daily blessings and conveniences with fresh eyes.

We will never be the same after the past month or two!  I think we’re all ready to be ready in personal ways that we would never have known about without the COVID19 quarantine!

ME: I know I shouldn’t have a favorite response, but I can really relate to Gary!

Gary Lawrence:

#1:  What did you notice was missing when you had to learn to live on the food and supplies you had stored in your home? Chocolate

#2:  What have you and/or your family been craving but you have not had stored or had the ingredients to make?  Chocolate

#3: Are there skills you wish you had right now? How to turn wheat into chocolate

#4:  How are you rethinking food storage as you move forward? What will you be doing now? 

Prioritize the storage of chocolate

Now, in a more serious vein:

#1.   We had enough of everything, but soon found out we needed to replenish all-purpose flour and yeast, and the stores had run out of both.  We ground wheat into flour, but 100% whole-wheat bread, even in small chunks, has the chewiness of a hockey puck. 

#2:  If we did not have the luxury of grocery deliveries, we would crave fresh vegetables.  We do square-foot gardening, but my tomatoes are only now beginning to ripen.

#3:  The skill to keep governments from using the pandemic to increase their powers. 

#4:  We will be more consistent and timely in rotating things that can turn rancid (such as crackers and brown rice) or lose effectiveness (such as yeast).  And we’ll freeze a fresh supply of chocolate.

I was planning to share my own fails but the response was so great from other Meridian columnists you will have to wait for my next article. A huge thank you to everyone who shared with us giving us the opportunity to think about our own failures and successes.

Please go to the Totally Ready Facebook page and share your experiences during this COVID challenge. What have you learned? What do you need help with now? Let us know so we can help and address those things in future articles.